SHARON — In 1988, an idea, a conductor, and a handful of brave musicians founded a community band.
What started small has grown and flourished, and this year, the Sharon Bands — now a pair of ensembles that includes a jazz band — are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their original ensemble. In the years since the group’s founding under the auspices of the town Recreation Department, it has expanded from a few musicians to approximately 60.
It has also grown in its musicianship, evolving into what conductor and music director Steve Bell says is a wind ensemble with a challenging, refined repertoire, “representative of what you would call a symphony orchestra.” Although most are not professional musicians, many could be, according to Bell, now in his sixth year with the group. Many are longtime members, and a handful performed in the first concert all those years ago.
The concert band’s songbook ranges from the patriotic melodies and show tunes of open-air summer concerts, to classical, to traditional Celtic. The smaller jazz band, known as the Roy Scott Big Band, plays everything from swing-era classics to jazz, blues, Latin, and more, and hosts dinner-dances that attract serious swing dancers and social dancers alike.
Michael Getz, who plays clarinet in the concert band and tenor saxophone in the big band, first heard about the group more than 20 years ago, at a social event for newcomers to Sharon. At the time, “I was rusty,” he said. He hadn’t dusted off his instruments in at least five years, maybe 10.
But he gave it a try. He didn’t audition, as the bands don’t hold formal auditions, but they do expect a certain level of performance, members said.
For Getz, the group just clicked. He loves the fun, funky music of the big band, as well as the joyful summer concerts that have taken the group to at least 25 area towns, he said.
At one time, most of the musicians were Sharon residents, but now, many come from other communities, something Getz attributed to the skill of successive music directors in pushing the bands to improve and attract new musicians. He said the group’s credits include gigs at Boston’s Hatch Shell and Faneuil Hall.
“A band like this in a community is just really a jewel,” he said.
Members are proud of the group’s history of helping teenage musicians develop their skills. One former Sharon student, Ellis Tucker, recently graduated from the Berklee College of Music and works in Boston as an independent music producer, guitarist, and artist relations manager.
Among the current young musicians is Kristine Dunham, a senior at Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School, whose father and sister once played in the band as well.
“It’s kind of like a family affair for me,” she said. “We’re all here because we enjoy playing music.”
Laurel Hentschel, 33, plays percussion, and she loves the timpani, which are broad kettle drums played with mallets. She played at Rockland High School, but after graduation, didn’t pick up the mallets for a decade. Then, a few years ago, she moved to Sharon and saw information about the Sharon Bands online.
She missed playing, so she joined the group, and she feels at home, especially under the direction of Bell, her former director at Rockland High.
“I love the atmosphere. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming,” she said.
At a rehearsal in late November, the concert band did its first run-through of songs for a Celtic concert coming up on March 16. They played “The Irish Washerwoman,” “The Rakes of Mallow,” “A Scottish Portrait,” and “Along an English Countryside,” among others. At the show, some of the songs will feature guest dancers. The band likes to incorporate extra elements into its concerts, such as dancers and vocalists, and many of the shows offer a dinner option.
On Saturday, the Roy Scott Big Band is hosting “Jazzy Valentine,” a dinner-dance at Lake Pearl Luciano’s in Wrentham. The evening starts with a sold-out three-course dinner, followed by music and dancing, with introductory dance lessons by Savaria Dance Studio of Norwood. The band will play swing-era hits, including a tribute to swing great Benny Goodman. Details are posted on the group’s website at www.sharonbands.org.
The band first got started when David I. Clifton, then parks and recreation director in Sharon, decided a community band would be a good way to bring residents together and complement the local art association and community chorus.
Roy Scott, a jazz pianist who volunteered in the music program at the Sharon public schools, heard about the idea and went to Clifton with a proposal. He would conduct the band, and his wife, Irene Scott, would do the administrative duties.Continued...